Forgotten Geniuses of Venice

Forgotten Geniuses of Venice
12 October 2017 Comments are off

The very rich and powerful of Venice were proud and fiercely detached from the cancer of the church in Rome for centuries. Venetians knew their place within their Republic and put its glory and well-being before all else, including it seems the pursuit of self-glory, even when it was deserved.

We know more about the scallywags of Venice, and none more so than Casanova, but history has forgotten many great Venetians.

John Cabot, a Venetian discovered Canada for Henry VIII while Alvise da Mosto (d.1488) discovered the Cape Verdi Islands. You can throw into this mix a certain Gianfrancesco Straparola (d.1557), the writer of a collection of 75 bawdy tales called Le Piacevole Notti, which contain the earliest known version of Puss in Boots! The wealth of Venice by the early 14th century was an irresistible magnet for the relatively new industry of book printing and in the full bloom of the Renaissance Europe’s two greatest publishing houses were based in Venice. Aldo Manuzio (1450-1515) and Gabriele Giolito (d.1578) were in competition in book printing in Venice publishing beautiful editions of Aristo, Aretino and Castiglione and many Greek classics.

There was a little known Franciscan mathematician Luca Pacioli (d.1517) who called Venice home, who worked with Leonardo da Vinci in Milan on the subject of mathematical and artistic proportions.

The world of music is dominated by great Venetian composers, although you might not be familiar with the names Andrea Gabrieli (d.1586) and his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli (d.1612), masters of the rich, harmonically complex Venetian school of music. Gioseffo Zarlino (d.1590) was il maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s and the leading music theoretician of his age.

Still on the subject of music you need to express profound appreciation and gratitude to Ottavio Petrucci (d.1539) who invented a three-stage technique for printing music with movable type, who went on to become the first commercial publisher of music in 1501. This explains why all musical notations are in Italian! Ending this short list is Lorenzo da Ponte (d.1838), Mozart’s favourite Italian librettist, who somehow ended up living in the suburbs of Philadelphia?

History is littered with heroes from Venice whose place in history deserve to see the light of day.


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Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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